Transnational Migration

The world is interconnected, globalised, and becoming smaller and smaller every day as people from different countries and nationalities mix more and more. Transnational migrants contribute to that process as they share stories and cultures as they move around the world. But how do we define transnational migration? What are examples of transnational migration around the world? Are there positive effects or disadvantages? Dive on in to find out more!

Transnational Migration Transnational Migration

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Table of contents

    Transnational Migration Definition

    Transnational migration contributes to globalisation and the diversification of cultures and countries. Transnational migration can allow a wide range of cultures and backgrounds to communicate and share ideas with each other.

    Transnational migration refers to people living in another country but maintaining ties back to the country they came from. This could be expatriates (ex-pats), guest workers, employees of large multinational companies, or any other diaspora community.

    In 1990, 2.87% of people in the world were international migrants. In 2020 that number had risen to 3.60% of the global population. This may be due to a more globalised, interconnected world. This connected world means a greater exchange of cultures and ideas, and more people of different backgrounds living with each other in the same countries and communities.1

    Transnational Migration Countries by Immigrant Population map StudySmarterFig. 1 - Countries by Immigrant Population. The darker the blue, the higher the immigrant population.

    Factors of Transnational Migration

    Transnational migrants move to different countries for a variety of reasons, including economic opportunities like being able to afford higher living standards, sending remittances back to their country of origin, or having access to better economic resources. Educational opportunities also influence transnational migration. Thousands of students around the world move to other countries to obtain higher education.

    Remittances are money sent back by migrant workers to their country of origin, often to friends and family that they support.

    Forced factors of migration, such as conflict and natural disasters, can also contribute to migration. Such events may create a situation where transnational migrants want to hold onto their culture even more in their new destination, having not left their home country by choice.

    Transnational migration can create communities and diasporas of many cultures. These mix together, transcend country boundaries and combine with the makeup of other cultures, making the world a smaller and smaller place. Many transnational migrants eventually return to their home countries, bringing the opposite cultural effects back to their country of origin, as they share the influence of the culture they had been living in.

    Check out our explanation on the Causes of Migration!

    Transnational Migration Example

    The United States is a great example of transnational migration. Much of the United States has been developed as a consequence of some form of migration, and the country is predominantly a mix of many diasporas of different cultures and nations. Around 15% (about 50 million) of people in the United States today were not born in the United States. This is the highest total number of any country in the world.2

    Filipino Diaspora

    Let's look at a common community of transnational people in the United States. The Philippines was a territory of the United States for several decades, from the end of the 19th century, after the Spanish-American war, up until World War II. This time created strong links between the peoples of both countries. The Filipino diaspora in the United States is around 2.9 million, by 2014 estimates; this is the fourth-largest diaspora in the United States.3 The Philippines is also the fourth largest recipient of remittances worldwide, with the global Filipino diaspora sending an estimated USD$34.9 billion back to the Philippines in 2020.1 This is equivalent to 9.3% of the Filipino yearly Gross Domestic Product (GDP).4 These countries mutually influence each other's culture and create links that make borders thinner. These cultural links have created a large community of workers in what was, for a short time, a territory under the same rule.

    Mexican Diaspora

    Another example is the Mexican diaspora in the United States. The global Mexican diaspora ranks third in the world, with remittances back to Mexico estimated at USD$42.9 billion in 2020.1 The transnational link between the US and Mexico is huge, not only in migrant workers but also in cultural influence. Mexican food and the Spanish language are both common in the United States. On the other side, Mexico is a common destination for Americans to visit, and the United States is the top source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Mexico.5 These transnational aspects of the US-Mexico relationship contribute to diversified cultures on both sides of the border.

    Transnational Migration Mexican Ancestry in the US map StudySmarterFig. 2 - Mexican ancestry in the US

    Positive Effects of Transnational Migration

    There can be positive effects of transnational migration for the migrants, the country of origin, and the country of destination.

    • For migrants, there are typically always pull factors and advantages that drive people to move to a new place. This may be economic opportunities, educational opportunities, family and friends, or cultural reasons such as religious ties to a country.
    • Migrants can also diversify and culturally enrich communities in host countries by creating links back to their home countries while sharing aspects of their own nations. This can be seen as a positive by some and a negative by others.
    • For the country of origin, a benefit would be the remittances sent back by migrant workers. This is often the case when migrants move from poorer countries to richer countries as they may be able to obtain better wages relative to their country of origin, even working laborious, blue-collar jobs. The average income in Europe is 11 times higher than in Sub-Saharan Africa, and African migrants earn around three times more than they did back in their countries of origin, given that most African migrants will accept menial jobs.6
    • For the host country, there will be a boost in economic production as there are more people in the workforce. This can help fill job vacancies and make a country more productive. Immigration in this way is not beneficial if there is already a lack of jobs or an economic downturn, but when jobs are plentiful, and a country is growing, immigrants can often add to the success. The United States would be a tiny country in terms of population and economic size if it were not for immigration.
    • A host country can benefit from population growth, especially in those countries experiencing an ageing population or a demographic decline. Immigration is a method for countries to continue economic growth as fertility rates fall below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. This is prevalent in very developed countries, and many face a declining demographic trend.

    The replacement rate is the number of births needed to keep the population stable without increasing or decreasing.

    Disadvantages of Transnational Migration

    Transnational migration can have many disadvantages. Not everyone may be in favour of migration and the cultural diversification that comes with it. This can cause discrimination and division within a country, especially if a transnational migrant is perpetually perceived as an outsider due to cultural or racial differences.

    In AP Human Geography, we often discuss the difference between "nation" and "country," wherein a nation is an abstract association of people with a shared culture, whereas a country is a legal entity. Being a "legal citizen of a country" and being "part of a nation" is not always synonymous.

    In other words, a person can be a citizen but not necessarily be accepted as part of a nation within a community or country. Depending on the country and cultural context, someone may never be fully accepted, as the nation may be wary of diluting or losing its culture. In contrast, other nations have embraced diversity and the evermore interconnected world. Therefore, a disadvantage of transnational migration is that it can cause conflict between those embracing change and those wanting to preserve their culture as it has been.

    Ironically enough, the preservation of a culture is exactly what makes that culture rich, unique, and interesting to share. Yet, many feel that sharing a culture and spreading it throughout the world may homogenise it, thus diluting what was unique about it in the first place. This is the dilemma many cultures and nations face in a diverse, globalised world. As transnational migration creates many links between different cultures, it is vital to find a balance between embracing diversification and not having unique cultures assimilate into others so much that they lose their identity. Many countries have been built off embracing differences and cherishing diversity to preserve cultures and nations while living in a single united country.

    Check out both our explanations on the Push and Pull Factors of Migration!

    Transnational Migration - Key takeaways

    • Transnational migrants are those who have moved to another country yet still have ties back to their home countries.
    • Transnational migrants influence the culture they come to and also bring new cultural characteristics back to their home country upon returning.
    • The United States offers a great example of transnational migration throughout history.
    • There are both positive and negative effects of transnational migration, on migrants themselves, the origin country, and the host country.


    1. IOM UN Migration. 'World Migration Report 2022'. 2022.
    2. IOM Migration Data Portal, UN DESA. 'International Migrant Stock as a Percentage of the Total Population at mid-year 2020.' 2021.
    3. Migration Policy Institute. 'The Filipino Diaspora in the United States.' 2014.
    4. IOM Migration Data Portal, KNOMAD/World Bank. 'Personal remittances received (as % of GDP) in 2021'. 2022.
    5. U.S. Department of State. '2021 Investment Climate Statements: Mexico'. 2021.
    6. The Economist. 'Many more Africans are Migrating Within Africa Than to Europe'. 2021.
    7. Fig. 1: Countries by Immigrant Population ( by Thebainer (Stephen Bain) (, licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (
    8. Fig. 2: Mexican Ancestry in the US ( by Abbasi786786 (, licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (
    Frequently Asked Questions about Transnational Migration

    What is transnational migration?

    A migrant that still has ties to their country of origin. 

    What causes transnational migration?

    The causes of transnational migration include economic opportunities, education opportunities, or even conflict and natural disasters. 

    What are the impacts of transnational migration?

    Cultural change can happen as migrants influence cultures with their own. More workers mean a bigger labour force. There may be an increase in discrimination if transnational migrants are viewed as outsiders.

    How does transnational migration affect one's own society?

    Money, in the form of remittances, is sent back to home countries from migrant workers who have moved abroad. When migrants come back to their home country, they can bring cultural influences from the country they migrated to.

    What are the challenges faced by transnational migrants?

    Migrants are not always welcome and may be expected to assimilate into a culture instead of expressing their own. Discrimination can also occur.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    True or false: Transnational migrants still have ties to their home country.

    True or false: transnational migrants fully assimilate into a new culture.

    True or false: there are more international migrants in the world now than in 1990.


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